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Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Stage Addiction: Buck Up, Kids, It Ain't So Bad

That the world's global media turned its all-seeing eye two weeks ago, ever so briefly, to the glut of Broadway closings might be taken as a sign that the world actually cares about the fate of the theatre industry. But don't be fooled. The reportage, in general, was weak and uninformed, blaming the rash of closings on the economy...which is only partially true at best. As regular readers of Modern Fabulousity know, January closings are an annual ritual for limited runs and aging shows that choose not to struggle through the lean winter months. The truth is that many of the closed shows were (sad as it is) reaching the end of their natural lifespans; their audiences had begun to dwindle well before the economic downturn started. You might be able to blame the economy for the premature ends of Broadway's tourist traps (Spamalot, Hairspray, Grease), but it's an overreach to think Spring Awakening, Gypsy, Young Frankenstein and others would have made it much longer, recession or not.

I'm not suggesting that the economy isn't hurting the theatre...it is. But it's unfair, in my view, to write doom-and-gloom scenarios without admitting that there is good news as well. A number of shows remain at or near capacity (Wicked, Jersey Boys, Billy Elliot, The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, etc.). There are success stories aplenty, from the seemingly unstoppable August: Osage County to the healthy In The Heights to that little musical that could, Avenue Q, now celebrating its fifth year of confounding expectations.

And despite all the closings, there's a tidal wave of shows opening to fill all those empty theatres. Just in the last week, in fact, there were announcements of star-studded spring dramas, like Exit The King with Oscar winners Geoffrey Rush and Susan Sarandon, The God of Carnage with James Gandolfini, and Waiting For Godot with Nathan Lane, Bill Irwin, John Goodman and David Strathairn, which will open a week earlier due to brisk sales. The Broadway transfer of Hair seems to have come together, and a bevy of big-name projects will open in the next 90 days: 33 Variations, 9 To 5, The Story of My Life, Impressionism, West Side Story, Irena's Vow, Blithe Spirit, Joe Turner's Come and Gone, Mary Stuart, Guys and Dolls, Accent on Youth, Rock of Ages, Reasons to be Pretty, Hedda Gabler and Irena's Vow. Want stars? We've got Jane Fonda, Joan Allen, Jeremy Irons, Angela Lansbury, Will Ferrell, Rupert Everett, David Hyde Pierce, Marsha Mason, Colin Hanks, Zach Grenier, Mary-Louise Parker, Jeff Daniels, Marcia Gay Harden, Hope Davis, Christine Ebersole, Oliver Platt, Craig Bierko, Lauren Graham, Andrea Martin, Lauren Ambrose, Tovah Feldshuh, Samantha Mathis, Allison Janney, and Malcolm Gets on Broadway stages by May 1. Broadway's far from dead, and very far from empty. So when will the media notice?

Tapeworthy shared with us the first photo from the new Guys and Dolls, which answers two questions. One: this is what Lauren Graham looks like as a blonde. Two: Oliver Platt is never really a handsome dude.

New musical fans, take note: there's a new show in town, and you're going to want to see it. Happiness, up at Lincoln Center come February 27, has a talent roster that makes me moist: book by John Weidman (Assassins), music/lyrics by Scott Frankel and Michael Korie (Grey Gardens), directed by Susan Stroman (The Producers), with a cast that includes Hunter Foster (Urinetown), Joanna Gleason (Into The Woods), and Ken Page (Ain't Misbehavin'). Wowsa. (You might also want to check out The Toxic Avenger, which features the zany antics of Urinetown's Tony-nominated Nancy Opel.)

Random thought: Doesn't Mary-Louise Parker look like the chickens have escaped from the henhouse in this picture? Girlfriend, pull it back.

The best annual fire sale in town, 20@20, is back beginning January 26th. It's simple math: 20 shows offering $20 tickets, for two weeks. Included on the hit list this year are Altar Boyz (which is also doing a pay-what-you-can performance tomorrow), the experimental buzz hits Architecting and Freshwater, The Cripple of Inishmaan, Shipwrecked!, Fuerzabruta, and This Beautiful City. Who says theatre has to be expensive?

If you are interested in supporting a worthwhile organization that I have a history with...we're throwing a party on February 2nd. Want to come?

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Blogger Vance said...

And weren't the overall numbers for 2008 just a slight dip from 2007 (granted there were lost strike days from that) but still, the sky isn't totally falling. (and those numbers didn't even count Young Frank). Still, I hope this give producers excuses to throw up only "safe" shows. It would however be nice if they do offer some cheaper seats (or at least a greater variant in prices. I'm sorry but $60 "cheap" seats is still not cheap to me).

1/20/09, 2:49 AM  

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